Boston’s Restaurant Week is a much-anticipated event for those who enjoy the fine things in life yet are on a tight budget. Ironically, Restaurant Week runs over a period of almost two weeks (fMar. 9- 14 and 16-21) and covers the Greater Boston area, which includes Cambridge and other suburbs.
The Ups and Downs
The best part of Restaurant Week is the prix-fixe meals: three-course lunches are $20.08 and dinners are $33.08. A total of 173 restaurants are participating in 2008 – that total includes some of the same restaurants with more than one location.
The nice thing about Restaurant Week is that you have a whole list of restaurants that are allegedly good. Even if you don’t go, it’s not a bad idea to go over the list and make mental notes of restaurants that you would go after Restaurant Week, when the scene is a little less chaotic and the servers are on better behavior.
Restaurant Week would be a great attraction for tourists or business people who happen to be in Boston at this time of year, but unfortunately, if you are in town and decide to get a reservation, all the good places will be booked. So unless you have a private secretary to book meals for you weeks in advance (or are a local who knows this is coming) there are slim chances of getting a spot at one of the better restaurants.
The reason you want to get a “better” restaurant is because for the hosts of this event (the restaurant owners) Restaurant Week is a double-edged sword. Sure, it promotes your venue, but some places don’t need that extra promotion, thank you very much. Therefore, participating in Restaurant Week becomes somewhat of a community service. Most of all, this affects the attitude of staff, many of whom seem to be “out of it” during Restaurant Week. Customers don’t appreciate the slack, but find it difficult to be demanding because they know they’re not paying the full bill.
For instance, at Vox Populi in Back Bay, we had to wait an hour for the waitress to take our order and more than half an hour in picking up the check. One waiter (who did not wish to be named) admitted that Restaurant Week is not his favorite time because tips are much smaller.
Which is more the reason you have to go to a place that serves amazing food and cares about their reputation. One thing that you have to take into consideration are taxes and gratuities – some restaurants have a fixed gratuity. Order one drink and a dinner bill will come to about $50. Some of the restaurants featured in Restaurant Week aren’t really worth the money because the food is just not worth it and their menus usually don’t even cost as much as the prix-fixe price.
Fortunately, sites such as RestaurantWeek publish the menus online. It’s a good idea to look through the menu because your choice is limited and sometimes just by reading the menu, you can get a sense of how coherent the courses have been put together. Sometimes, chefs tend to get overcreative or experimental with the menu because they can risk it.
Many of the expensive restaurants will be booked way before Restaurant Week starts (think of all the people wanting a good deal) so now may not be a good time, since the event has already started.
Nonetheless, Restaurant Week takes place twice a year, so take these tips into consideration for the fall culinary celebration. The event is sponsored by American Express, and having an American Express Card helps when making advance reservations. Reservations can be made at Opentable.com (does not feature all restaurants) or through the individual restaurants.